08 May 2014

Seat Belt Safety Video: Good For Trans People?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a ruling from India's Supreme Court that says, in essence, that transgenders are a third gender.  This, I believe, is both good and bad:  On one hand, people do not have to be bound to the gender binary that prevails in most cultures.  On the other, such a law can make further stigmatization--particularly of the hijra--possible.

In that context, it's especially interesting to see hijra in a new video urging drivers to use their seatbelts. In it, transgender actors mimic airline flight attendants giving an in-flight safety demonstration. 

Most likely, the actors were chosen because in traditional South Asian cultures, hijra were believed to possess special powers and, for that reason, were asked to bless births and marriages and are, to this day, sometimes found blessing motorists in return for cash.

On the other hand, that is one of the reasons why hijra have been stigmatized:  People fear those very same powers.  However, it must be said that the most virulent prejudice against them has come as India has become more Westernized.

And, another reason why the video might not be such a boon to gender-variant people is that it casts trans people in one of the most stereotypically female--or, more precisely, feminine--roles: that of a stewardess.  Then again, some might regard that as a validation of us as women.

In any event, here's the video: